Organization Development

Dec 01, 2021 10 min read

Empathetic Organisations are not Built Overnight !

The right culture can change the art of what’s possible in organisations – Yves Pigneur

The past 1.5 years of Covid have shown that compassion, empathy and a people-centric approach have no substitutes as they are central to any organisation’s success. This was one of the important lessons learnt by many corporates round the globe. Can these characteristics of an organisation be developed overnight? For IndianOil, it was not a lesson to be learnt but rather an opportunity to value the culture that we had built over the years.

The first wave of Covid showed how agile we are. The HR team had to shift to ‘Work From Home’ and simultaneously ensure that the show went on, our employees at locations continued to work, their health and safety got ensured and their anxiety got addressed. With ongoing uncertainties, it was a herculean task but was done well.  Covid advisories were issued, and a task force formed under the leadership of our Dir (HR) monitored the status of Covid on daily basis.

Most importantly, the culture of the organisation which encourages decentralisation of power proved to be a   big boon. They ensured the safety and wellbeing of all stakeholders, implemented all safety measures in their premises, kept the entire team motivated and ensured business continuity. They have also imparted the most important skill required for any leader – “Emotional Intelligence”. Through a series of interventions that helped to improve their EQ, they were made masters in leading with compassion as opposed to stress.

Working proactively, HR introduced relevant policy changes with respect to availing of leaves, medical claims, purchase of medical aids etc. All these policy changes were announced suo motto without waiting for the field staff to list their requests. Our corporate HR could pre-visualise the requirement and act accordingly which immensely helped our employees on the frontline who were already battling the pandemic.

Slowly, the “New Normal” set in and business-as-usual started when the second wave caught us unaware. When the whole country believed that we had learnt to live and deal with Covid, it proved us all wrong by mutating into a more adamant and destructive monster.

In IndianOil, our empathetic HR leaders could visualise the magnitude of the problem and the need to stand together. They utilized every resource available in the best possible way. Covid coordination teams (CCC) was formulated across the organization. In less than 24 hours’ time, a team of volunteers across the country were roped in who were informed of their roles and responsibilities to enable them to start functioning without any delay.

The teams were empowered to reach out to anyone in the IndianOil network without any hierarchy, seek help, arrange for beds, medicines and extend as much help as possible. The only motive here was to save lives, reduce the hardship of fellow IOCians and their family members. No laxity was allowed in extending help to anyone seeking help from our CCC network.

Initially, CCC network decided to focus on IOCians (current and retired) and their immediate family members, but calls started flowing frantically seeking help for distant relatives and friends too.  CCC team of volunteers did not say no to any single call as the members realised that it was the precious lives of people that were at stake. They squeezed all resources to extend all possible help.

Our medical and HR teams at every state office, our location in charge across all marketing locations, our refinery units, pipeline station in charges, divisional heads were all functioning as extended arms of CCC responding at lightning speed to every request that was getting posted.

While CCC was involved in coordination, our other HR teams were adding more hospitals to our network making temporary nominations to ensure our people got medical attention in the shortest possible time. We also tied up with Covid are centres of hospitals and also converted our guest houses into Covid care centres wherever feasible. An All India WhatsApp group was also formed for all CCC volunteers to connect well.

There were instances where medicines had to be sourced from one corner of the country, airlifted and sent to another corner of the country in less than 24 hours. Not just medicines, we also airlifted one of our officers from Indore to Chennai when his condition deteriorated and he needed special medical care.

A special medical team with an ambulance was kept in readiness, our aviation teams were coordinating the flight movements and it was a compassionate set of employees of a great organisation at work trying their might to save its employee. Though we lost him to Covid, but the young workforce of IndianOil realized how care has always been one of our core values. For IOCians, our core values of care and passion are not just words printed in posters and showcased, but values close to our heart. All Iocians have imbibed it in true spirit and it was on display during these covid times.

It would take not just a small article to write the numerous such experiences of our fellow IOCians Every loss of our employees or their family members or any of our extended family members viz customer attendants, delivery boys, dealers, distributors etc was taking an emotional toll. However, there was no time to be in grief as in war there is no time to rest or cry. We had to gather strength and keep marching to win the battle and save lives.

While the entire HR team was sharing responsibilities and taking care of hospital admissions, making calls to home isolated cases, arranging for tie-ups, planning for vaccination of stakeholders, conducting awareness sessions on Covid and vaccinations, our frontline workforce of the organisation was ensuring business continuity despite all odds, thus demonstrating resilience and grit. While our frontline workforce was undergoing huge anxiety and stress over Covid, we organised counselling sessions to help them cope with the same.

The empathetic approach of our top management, the support of each and every IOCian standing shoulder to shoulder, brought in an important revelation that a truly great organisation doesn’t get built overnight. It gets built over the years with a visionary HR team ably headed by emotionally intelligent leaders grooming the young generation with care, and leaders passing these values across generations. It starts at the induction level imparting these core values as we impart technical skills to the babies of the corporation. It has been imbibed and passed on over many generations and today I’m sure our senior family members i.e. our retired employee fraternity would feel proud of what they have built over the years.

Covid is still looming and we never know how many more waves would set in, but now we know that no challenge is too big for us as empathy and compassion is at the core of our culture.


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